Honest conversation needed on waterways

15/05/2014

Federated Farmers’ Waikato provincial president has responded to a response from Fish & Game NZ to his column on water issues:

Whilst I appreciate Fish and Game taking the time to respond to my article last week, they did not quite get the gist of what I was saying. They have ducked the issue of their lack of accountability and pulled a side angle out of thin air.

I am unsure where they read that I don’t support their investment in wetlands, I just don’t support them touting they’re doing it for environmental reasons when they are clearly in it for the sport. I would rather they spent 100 percent of their budget on wetlands rather than 20 percent, but just don’t pretend you are doing it for the environment. Fish and Game’s wetlands are for breeding game and supporting the population of introduced pests, however I am grateful for the natives that benefit from them.

The fundamental point I made in my article, which has also been misread, is that farmers need to buy licenses from Fish and Game to hunt ducks. Mr. Wilson may need to swot up himself on the nature of duck shooting as a sport and what the season is all about. Whilst he rightly pointed out that you don’t need to have a license if you are hunting on your own farm, he neglected to address the social aspect of hunting where you hunt on friend’s farms, and where Fish and Game makes their fortune. Opening weekend in particular is the height of social events for most farmers. As much as duck shooting is about getting rid of pests it is also about hunting with friends and without their license you would be fined or you could always resort to shooting together over Skype.

So yes we farmers are significant financiers of Fish and Game who, without a mandate, spend our license fees pushing their agenda in court.

One thing I do agree with Mr. Wilson on is that Lake Waikare needs some serious work. The farming community has spent approximately $3 billion on enhancing our environmental performance, but we are well aware there is plenty more to be done. Farmers and regional councils are working well together to rectify water quality issues and will continue to do so. Fish and Game conveniently overlooks the impact Koi Carp is having on Lake Waikare, let alone water fowl, and forgets to mention that Hamilton Lake is one of the worst water quality issues in Waikato with no farmland or stock near it.

This is a prime example of a double standard, where Hamilton Lakes’ deteoriating water quality has had no livestock near it for 50 years, yet hundreds of water fowl and is one of the unhealthiest waterways in the region. There is no shortage of information on where farming has to improve its impact on water quality, and we are, so pointing this out the obvious at this point is just plain petty.

What is left unsaid, or avoided, is why there is deteoriating water quality in rivers and lakes that have no farmland or stock around them. I would invite Fish and Game or anyone to answer that and tell me what investment or planning is happening to rectify those waterways.

Mr. Wilson, we would all do well to consider the water quality in the Waikato. The conversation here should be honest though. Between an organisation that breeds/protects water fowl and the primary industry, we all have our part to play. Let’s be honest in this and what part we are playing.

In the meantime, if the Government won’t make Fish and Game a voluntary subscription organisation, Fish and Game should try and acknowledge all its members in the work it does and part of that is engaging with them in a positive manner. We would welcome Fish and Game to our AGM next Tuesday, on 20 May, at the Hamilton Airport.

Houghton’s original column is here.

My post on it is here and I gave Ben Wilson, Chief Executive Fish & Game Auckland/Waikato Region the right of reply to it here.


Right of reply

12/05/2014

Fish and Game asked for right of reply to this post on farmers’ providing ammo for opponents.

I am happy to do so, here it is unedited:

James Houghton of Federated Farmers asks why farmers should buy licences to hunt ducks.  The simple answer is that under the law, the vast majority of farmers don’t need a game licence to hunt on their own land – a truth conveniently overlooked by Mr Houghton.

He also criticises Fish & Game very unfairly over our efforts to create new wetlands or enhance existing ones. We make no apologies for this; Auckland/Waikato Fish & Game owns over 1650 hectares of wetland in the Waikato, purchased using licence income. We currently have 19 wetland restoration or construction projects underway in the Waikato, the majority on private land, working with landowners. We also advocate actively and strongly for wetlands through the RMA process and will continue to do so.

Wetlands are important for waterfowl, both native and introduced. They are also critical habitats for several native fish species.  But surely as an advocate for the farming community, Houghton must be well aware of the role that wetlands play in enhancing water quality?

Instead of attacking the messenger, Houghton should be asking himself why water quality in the Waikato is still declining, and why the largest lake in the lower Waikato, Lake Waikare, is bright red from algal blooms.

After giving this some thought, he would do well to consider (as more thoughtful and forward looking members of the farming community already have), whether creating wetlands is one of the best solutions.

Ben Wilson

Chief Executive Fish & Game Auckland/Waikato Region

Paranormal pointed out, in a comment on the original post, as the letter above does, that farmers don’t need licences to shoot ducks on their own land.

That, is correct but not all farms have waterways and ponds, a lot of farmers shoot on other peoples’ land.

 


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